Quito: President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency Saturday over increasing activity in the Cotopaxi volcano near the capital of Quito, and officials evacuated a few hundred people as a precaution.

The decree gives authorities more flexibility in using government funds to deal with any problems.

Eruptions beginning Friday have shot ash more than 5km into the sky, spreading fine gray powder over roads, homes and cars in the region as far as the capital 50km to the north.

View of the ashes spewed by the Cotopaxi volcano in Pichincha province, Ecuador on 14 August. Photo: AFP
View of the ashes spewed by the Cotopaxi volcano in Pichincha province, Ecuador on 14 August. Photo: AFP

Presidential legal secretary Alexis Mera said further ash explosions and some pyroclastic flows on the volcano’s western slopes Saturday led officials to evacuate some nearby villages.

Cotopaxi is considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, known as lahares. The 19,600-foot (5,987-meter) snow-capped volcano also is close to the heavily populated area around Quito. It last had a major eruption in 1877.

Authorities already had restricted access to the park that surrounds Cotopaxi and suspended ascents of the peak, which is popular with mountaineers.

Residents of Latacunga, Ecuador, leave town on 15 August after the Cotopaxi volcano increased its activity and authorities ordered the preventive evacuation of several villages around it. Photo: AFP
Residents of Latacunga, Ecuador, leave town on 15 August after the Cotopaxi volcano increased its activity and authorities ordered the preventive evacuation of several villages around it. Photo: AFP
Workers sweep the road to remove ash spewed by the Cotopaxi volcano in Chasqui, Ecuador, on 14 August. Photo: Reuters
Workers sweep the road to remove ash spewed by the Cotopaxi volcano in Chasqui, Ecuador, on 14 August. Photo: Reuters
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